Spring is finally upon us! Wednesday will mark the first day of Spring, and for many school districts across the country, this week is Spring Break. In the spirit of the annual ritual that is Spring cleaning, here are 6 things you can do to Spring clean your finances.
Getting tired of the never-ending accumulation of statements and receipts? Opt-in for paperless statements from your bank, investment custodian(s), and service providers. Once you’ve signed up and started to receive your statements via email, you can save your statements on your computer’s hard drive, keep a copy of a usb storage device, and/or back up your records to the cloud using a service such as Dropbox.
Not sure what to do with all the paper documents you’ve been getting all these years before making the switch to e-statements? There are plenty of PDF scanners on the market that will allow you to scan your documents into your computer and have the files automatically converted to PDF. For documents that require originals, make sure to keep the originals on file. But for documents you don’t need originals of, feel free to shred them once your electronic files are backed up. This brings us to our next item on the Spring Clean Your Finances list.
Get rid of your outdated records:
If you’re like me, you have plenty of old statements and records you’re not even sure if you need anymore. For documents you no longer need, make sure to use a cross-cut shredder to destroy any documents with important personal information.
Check your credit report:
Do you know if the information on your credit report is true and accurate? The best way to find out is to order your free credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies. You can do this at www.annualcreditreport.com. If there are errors on your credit report, you’ll want to file a dispute directly with the agency. Sometimes errors are simply honest mistakes made by a reporting creditor. Other times, the problem could be more serious, as in the case of identity theft.
To guard against identity theft, consider an identity theft protection service like Lifelock. If you have no intentions of taking on any new debts, you can go a step further and order a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies. Depending on your state of residence, there may be a nominal fee associated with placing or removing a credit freeze with each of the bureaus. To learn more, you can visit each of the bureau’s credit freeze websites by clicking the following links: Experian, Transunion, Equifax.
Update your spending plan:
In order to be the best steward of your financial resources, you should have a spending plan in place to help guide and track your spending, saving, and giving decisions. If you don’t currently have a spending plan in place, now would be a great time to start! If you do have a spending plan, but haven’t kept up with it or updated it in a while, consider reviewing your plan and making adjustments where needed. There are plenty of options out there for cash flow planning and tracking. Many, of which, are free. Two of the top ones we and our clients use are www.mint.com and www.mvelopes.com.
Update your passwords:
These days, everyone has a digital footprint. With so much personally-identifiable information living on the web, it’s important to manage your digital footprint and keep your various online accounts secure. It’s easy to use the same password for a multitude of different accounts and to rarely, if ever, change your passwords. But this definitely is not a prudent thing to do. Consider updating your passwords to your various online accounts and using different passwords for each account. You can make it easier on yourself (and your loved ones if something should happen to you) by keeping an online account access password log. This could be something as simple as a piece of paper with handwritten account information (recorded and locked in a safe), an Excel spreadsheet, an offline password vault like this one by Sharper Image, or a cloud-based password manager like Last Pass.
Commit to a debt-free lifestyle:
Too many Americans are weighed down by the bondage of debt. Aspire to achieve the financial freedom that comes with a debt-free lifestyle. With no debt, you’ll free up monthly cash flow to save and invest for your future goals and dreams as well as maximize your impact on your community and the world around you by being generous. Use this free debt snowball tool to see when you could be debt-free!